In advance of publication of his memoirs, Britain’s former ambassador to the US describes Tony Blair as liking the vision thing, but weak on detail, not interested in the ballast behind the ideas, and impatient.
Julian Glover and Ewen MacAskill in the Guardian
A small, hand-addressed blue box on Sir Christopher Meyer’s desk provides a clue to his background. It contains a miniature stone replica of the White House and was a gift this month from Karl Rove, President Bush’s political adviser. It a sign that Sir Christopher is not just another former ambassador but a man close to the heart of Republican America.
As British ambassador to Washington from 1997 to February 2003, he was the man who introduced a wary Tony Blair to Mr Bush. He led the way towards the unexpected mating of New Labour with the American right, a relationship that eventually took Britain to war in Iraq.
He did not just arrange meetings between the two leaders but spoke up at them. He was a confidant of both sides, with regular private meetings with everyone in the White House from vice-president Dick Cheney and his aide Lewis “Scooter” Libby, now being prosecuted in Washington, to the president himself. He reinvented what it meant to be Britain’s ambassador to Washington, a dominant figure in the capital’s social life as well as in politics.
His posting overlapped the Clinton and Bush administrations and, with access to both the US and British sides, he was well placed to track the debate in the run-up to the Iraq invasion. He supported the war but is far from happy about the handling of the aftermath. “I don’t believe the enterprise is doomed necessarily, though, God, it does not look good,” he says in an interview with the Guardian marking the publication of his memoirs, DC Confidential. “A lot of people think what we are going to end up with is precisely what we didn’t want.”
It is not a book that will make comfortable reading for Mr Blair and those who served him. He is the first of the insiders involved in the planning of the war to publish a first-hand account. He is not flattering about the way the prime minister, his ministers and advisers went about their task. Now as chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, Britain’s newspaper watchdog, he works from a small, shabby office just off Fleet Street, a far cry from the embassy receptions and official Rolls-Royce that once ferried him around the US capital. He looks at the breakdown of Iraq now with the detachment of an outsider – but one with a unique insight into how the war came about and what could have been done differently.